Showing posts with label DVC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DVC. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Quality Resort Time and Family Fun

Coloring, scrapbooking, reading, and baking cookies. What a fun, relaxing kind of evening in the room, after a fun-filled day at the water park. As much as I love the theme parks, these trips where we don't go to them are so nice. Hanging out at the resort, lots of swimming, and enjoying some of the other wonders of Walt Disney World.

#makingmemories #familyvacations #itsthetimetogetherthatcounts



Monday, March 11, 2013

stopher's stuff - The Years Have Just Flown By



Today I not only say that another week has flown by, but I’ll say that another YEAR has flown by as well.  But not only that, this week marks the beginning of the end of a another DECADE as well.  What’s that all mean you say?  Well, tomorrow I get to mark a very special day with the one person in this life whom I love the most, and have spent the most intimate and quality time – my lovely bride. Tomorrow is our 19th wedding anniversary, and as such, we are closing out another great year together, but also embarking into the final year of our second decade together as a married couple. 
To my lovely bride...

It hardly seems possible though that it has already been 19 years since we made our vows, and then later enjoyed a cool party with many family and friends, before embarking out on our own to enjoy that all-important honeymoon period prior to officially “starting life”.  For many that honeymoon might be spent on a tropical island, or enjoying the art & culture of the “old world” in Europe.  For us, it was in a tropical location, and we did enjoy some “old world” charm, granted re-created charm, but charm none-the-less.   We honeymooned at Walt Disney World, and had a wonderful time.  It was my third visit to the Central Florida resort, and my lovely bride’s first.  And in those 19 years, a LOT has changed at my favorite Central Florida destination.  The resort of choice … The Grand Floridian Beach Resort as it was known back then (today it’s Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa). 
We married in March, because my lovely bride wanted a winterish wedding, without being in the actual midst of winter.  Had we known then that if we’d just waited about 2 more months we could have stayed at then brand-new Wilderness Lodge (known now as Disney’s Wilderness Lodge), we probably would have delayed it just a bit.  The Lodge is just about our favorite resort at all of Walt Disney World (Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is a close second).  That woodsy, Pacific Northwest feel is right up our alley thematically, and honestly, you just can’t beat the quiet, quaint ambiance that just exudes throughout the Lodge.  But we didn’t know back then that a) it was under construction, or b) that it was schedule for a grand opening in early May.  Back then the internet was still a relatively new phenomenon that hadn’t reached the masses yet.  Many of the very popular Disney fan sites weren’t even a glimmer in anyone’s eye yet, beside that - we didn’t even own our own computer yet! 

Since then the resort has added about 8 new resorts, added a water park, added the "West Side" to the Downtown Disney Area (then known as the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village), and added a theme park - plus a wide array of rides, attractions, shows, shopping & dining experiences, ticketing options, and so much more.  A LOT has changed. 

So yeah, a lot has changed in those 19 years, and not just at Walt Disney World.  Here are just a few fun facts from our life since we married 19 years ago:
  • we’ve lived in 3 states – California, Michigan and Indiana
  • we’ve belonged to 2 churches – North Orange Christian Church and White River Christian Church
  • we’ve grown our family by 3, having 2 sons and 1 daughter
  • we’ve watched all 3 grow too quickly… the eldest will be graduating high school about 2 ½ months after our 20th anniversary
  • we’ve owned 4 computers (the first was purchased a full year after we married), plus went through 4 different work-provided computers
  • we’ve each replaced a vehicle twice
  • we’ve each changed jobs twice
  • we've started 2 of our own businesses
  • we’ve lived in 4 different domiciles – 1 townhouse, 2 duplexes, and 1 house
  • we've added to our portfolio an investment home plus several vacation home options thanks to the Disney Vacation Club
  • we’ve had 3 different pets – 1 box turtle and 2 different cats (NOT my choice at all…I am allergic to and hate cats, but I love my wife and thus tolerate having a cat in the house for my wife’s sake)
  • we’ve used 8 different cell phones (only in the last 11 years though as we never had one prior to coming to Indiana) – 5 for me, and 3 for her
  • we’ve visited 24 states together (I’ve been to a lot more, but here I’m just referring to the two of us together)
  • we’ve enjoyed 6,935 days as a married couple or nearly 166,440 hours as a married couple or nearly 9,986,400 minutes as a married couple (though the hours and minutes are approximations based on total days)
  • we’ve had our ups and downs – but LOVE has been at the heart of our relationship in each of those years.
Until next time – make it a great week.  Do something positive for someone else.  Tell those special people in YOUR life how much they mean to you.   Celebrate the big and the little things.  I know I will.   



Friday, December 28, 2012

Featured Foto Friday - Stitch's Bakery at the Boardwalk


Stitch finds a home at the Boardwalk Inn in this delightful Gingerbread creation, one of several found at numerous Deluxe and DVC resorts at the Walt Disney World Resort.  

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday Spotlight - Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa


Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort® & Spa first opened at Walt Disney World® Resort on May 17, 2004.  It was built on the site of the former Disney Institute® and is one of several Disney Vacation Club® (DVC) timeshare properties at Walt Disney World® Resort.  The resort is themed to celebrate the legacy of a gentler era, and captures the spirit of the 1880’s resort of Saratoga Springs, New York. This lakeside resort is filled with Victorian architecture, meticulous landscaping and the horse-racing culture of the upstate New York community.
Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort® & Spa includes 60 Treehouse Villas, but those are featured separately.  

The original resort has a total of 1,260 villas, comprised of Deluxe Studios, 1-Bedroom, 2-Bedroom and 3-Bedroom Grand Villas.
Deluxe Studios are 365 square feet and can accommodate up to four guests, plus one child under age 3 in a crib.  They include a kitchenette, two queen-size beds and a private porch or balcony.
  • 1-Bedrooms are 714 square feet, and can accommodate up to five guests, plus one child under age 3 in a crib. They include a fully equipped kitchen, washer & dryer, king-size bed in the master bedroom, a queen-size sleeper sofa plus a sleeper chair in the living room, whirlpool tub in the bathroom, and a private porch or balcony.
  • 2-Bedrooms are 1,075 square feet, and can accommodate up to nine guests, plus one child under 3 in a crib. They offer all that a 1-Bedroom has plus a second bedroom with 2 queen-size beds and a second full bathroom.
  • 3-Bedroom Grand Villas are 2,113 square feet, and can accommodate up to 12 guests, plus one child under 3 in a crib. They offer all of the amenities of the 2-Bedroom, plus they include a third bedroom with 2 queen-size beds, a third full bathroom, a full dining room, additional private balcony and are two-story rooms.

As a DVC timeshare property, the villas are owned by members through DVC’s points-based system.  DVC maintains about 3-4% ownership of the total point allocation for each of their timeshare resorts, therefore rooms are available for rent year-round to non-members. 

The resort includes 2 feature pools and 4 leisure or “quiet” pools, a children’s pool, whirlpools, sauna, fitness center, Community Hall family recreation room, tennis courts, extensive jogging trails, arcade and recreational activities including Disney’s Lake Buena Vista Golf Course.  It also features 1 table service restaurant:  The Turf Club Bar and Grill serving lunch and dinner; 2 quick-service counter locations: The Artist’s Palette, and the High Rock Grill. 

Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort® & Spa is a Deluxe Villas level resort located across the water from the Downtown Disney® area.  Convenient bus transportation will take guests to all parts of Walt Disney World® Resort, and water taxis transport guests to and from Downtown Disney.  The resort is also a short walk from Downtown Disney®, and there are two different walking paths to it – one to the Marketplace area, and one to the West Side area. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sunday Spotlight - Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa


Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa® first opened August 29, 2011 in the Ko Olina resort area on the leeward coast of Oahu, Hawaii.  Inspired by the natural beauty, culture and traditions of Hawai’i, this beautiful resort was designed with families in mind.  Sharing a secluded lagoon with the JW Marriott resort, and another future-resort that is still to be developed, Aulani is situated on 21 acres of oceanfront property, with spectacular views.

The resort is comprised of both traditional hotel accommodations and Disney Vacation Club timeshare villas. There are 359 hotel rooms, including 16 suites, and 460 villas comprised of deluxe studios, one and two bedroom villas, and 21 three bedroom Grand Villas (18 of which directly overlook the ocean).

The resort towers surround the Waikalohe Valley, which comprises the various water and recreational amenities.  These amenities include:
  • Waikalohe Stream – an exhilarating yet refreshing waterway meandering throughout the Waikalohe Valley.
  • Menehune Bridge – an interactive water play area which features interactive water elements, 3 slides and a climbing structure
  • Two sparkling pools & four unique hot tubs
  • Two waterslides, Tubestone Curl – an inner tube slide for 1 or 2 guests at a time, and Volcanic Vertical – a single rider body slide
  • Rainbow Reef – a snorkeling experience at the largest inland snorkeling reef on the island (this is a fee-based activity)
  • Makai Preserve – a conservation lagoon where guests can interact with stingrays and other marine life (this is a fee-based  activity)
  • Pau Hana Room – video gaming, foosball, board games, storytelling, TV viewing area and arts & crafts (some but not all activities are fee-based)
  • Aunty’s Beach House – this fun-filled destination for the kids is a place of discovery, magic and exploration where kids can learn about the Hawaiian culture while they play.  Supervised playtime at Aunty’s Beach House allows mom and dad the opportunity to spend some adult time on the beach, at a romantic dinner or any other excursions of their choice.
  • Located directly across the street from the resort, is the Ko Olina Golf Club, and discounted greens fees are available for resort guests.

 The resort features several unique places to wine and dine.  These include: 
  • ’Ama ‘Ama, a table-service restaurant offers spectacular ocean-front views for breakfast, lunch & dinner.  Seafood is plentiful on the menu, along with traditional Hawaiian specialities.
  • Makahiki, offers an all-you-care-to enjoy breakfast and dinner buffet, and features a character breakfast, Aunty’s Character Breakfast at the Makahiki, currently offered on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays.  The food selection includes a generous mix of Hawaiian, Japanese and Chinese fare.
  • One Paddle, Two Paddle, is a counter-service location with a variety of delightful Hawaiian dishes, fresh made sandwiches and wraps.
  • Off the Hook is a colorful, pool and beachside lounge designed after a Hawaiian fisherman’s seaside shack, and features libations and appetizers.
  • The ‘Olelo Room is a pub-like gathering place where visitors can learn a variety of Hawaiian words while enjoying favorite cocktails.
  • The Lava Shack is located in the heart of the Waikalohe Valley, and features cold fried chicken, cured meats & cheeses and other grab & go snacks.


For the adventurist looking to augment their beach vacation with some really neat, self-guided Hawaiian “local color” -  Aulani is not far from many fun, exciting, and enjoyable destinations around Oahu. In the mood for a Dole Whip?  The Dole Plantation is just 30 minutes away.  Want to catch some waves or go surfing on some of the best beaches in the world, the North Shore, home of famed surfing competitions is just 45 minutes away.  Looking for the stereotypical Hawaiian tour? The famed beaches and experiences at Waikiki are just about an hour’s drive from the resort.  Hiking to the top of Diamond Head, or through a rainforest?  Both are just about an hour’s drive from the resort.  Of course the island is also home to numerous historic sites, significant in how the world changed so dramatically one December morning in 1941. The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument at Pearl Harbor is only about 20 minutes from Aulani, and is a must-see for so many different reasons.  This very moving site includes the USS Arizona Memorial, the USS Bowfin, the USS Missouri, the USS Oklahoma Memorial and the USS Utah Memorial – plus a handful of Exhibit Galleries, Museums, artifacts and a 23-minute film discussing the attacks on Pearl Harbor that December morning.

For those guests looking to enjoy different aspects of Hawaii but choose to do so on guided excursions,  you won’t be disappointed!  Just as cruise ships offer a plethora of land excursions on “port days” – Aulani provides similar opportunities for its’ guests as well.  The range of offerings can change from time to time, but currently there are about 14 different excursions. Each day there are 1 or 2 different guided tours and experiences for guests to select from. Costs range from about $50 per adult up to about $400 per adult. These excursions can be reserved in advance on Aulani’s website, or in person at the Holoholo Desk just to the left of the Lobby.  Excursion possibilities include learning to surf, riding horseback through lush valleys, hiking in the rainforest, setting sail on a catamaran or kayak along protected islets, cooking demonstrations with celebrity chefs, island hopping to explore volcanoes and so much more. 

Were Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa® to be located at the Walt Disney World® Resort, it would be considered a Deluxe level.  Transportation to and from the resort is not provided.  Guests can arrange for their choice of rental car, shuttle, taxi or limo service.  Rental Cars are highly recommended for a variety of self-guided excursions, grocery shopping (for villas guests) and other local visits away from the resort.  

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Today in Disney Parks and Resorts History - Aulani Opens


August 29, 2011 – Oahu, Hawaii

At approximately 6:30 a.m., Hawai'i time, Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa opens its' doors and the first guests enter. Disney's first resort in Hawaii, is located on the leeward, or west coast, of the island of Oahu, in the Ko Olina resort area.  It is about 10 minutes from Pearl Harbor, and about 20 miles west of downtown Honolulu.  The resort is comprised of a unique mix of "mouse-inspired" imagineering and Native Hawaiian culture on the approximate 21 acre ocean-front parcel it occupies.  It is a blend of traditional hotel rooms and Disney Vacation Club villas.  



Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday Spotlight - Disney's Old Key West


Disney's Old Key West Resort® first opened at Walt Disney World® Resort on December 20, 1991.  It was the original Disney Vacation Club® (DVC) timeshare property, and as such was originally named Disney’s Vacation Club Resort.  In January 1996 DVC expanded their timeshare offerings at the Walt Disney World Resort, and so the resort was renamed to Disney’s Old Key West Resort.  The resort is themed to celebrate the Conch Republic of Key West, Florida, and enjoys quite the laid-back feeling that a southern Florida provides.

The resort has a total of 761 villas, comprised of Deluxe Studios, 1-Bedroom, 2-Bedroom and 3-Bedroom Grand Villas.
  • Deluxe Studios are 376 square feet and can accommodate up to four guests, plus one child under age 3 in a crib.  They include a kitchenette, two queen-size beds and a private porch or balcony.
  • 1-Bedrooms are 942 square feet, and can accommodate up to five guests, plus one child under age 3 in a crib. They include a fully equipped kitchen, washer & dryer, king-size bed in the master bedroom, a queen-size sleeper sofa plus a sleeper chair in the living room, whirlpool tub in the bathroom, and a private porch or balcony.
  • 2-Bedrooms are 1,333 square feet, and can accommodate up to nine guests, plus one child under 3 in a crib. They offer all that a 1-Bedroom has plus a second bedroom with 2 queen-size beds and a second full bathroom.
  • 3-Bedroom Grand Villas are 2,375 square feet, and can accommodate up to 12 guests, plus one child under 3 in a crib. They offer all of the amenities of the 2-Bedroom, plus they include a third bedroom with 2 queen-size beds, a third full bathroom, a full dining room, additional private balcony and are two-story rooms.

As a DVC timeshare property, the villas are owned by members through DVC’s points-based system.  DVC maintains about 3-4% ownership of the total point allocation for each of their timeshare resorts, therefore rooms are available for rent year-round to non-members. 

The resort includes 1 feature pool and 3 leisure or “quiet” pools, a children’s pool, whirlpools, sauna, fitness center, Community Hall family recreation room, tennis courts, fishing, marina watercraft rentals, arcade and recreational activities.  It also features 1 table service restaurant:  Olivia’s Café serving breakfast lunch and dinner;  2 quick-service counter locations: Good’s Food to Go, and the Turtle Shack.  A bar is also on-site:  Gurgling Suitcase.

Disney’s Old Key West Resort® is a Deluxe Villas level resort centrally located to the east of Epcot® in the Downtown Disney® area.  Convenient bus transportation will take guests to all parts of Walt Disney World® Resort, and water taxis transport guests to and from Downtown Disney.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Saturday Savers - Bikes


It’s time once again to take a look at inexpensive options in or around Walt Disney World to augment your vacation experience.  Things that you might do on your own or with your traveling companions that are FREE or close to being free. Today we'll take a look at fun and enjoyment to be found throughout the various Resort Hotels at Walt Disney World - while not free, it can be had for a nominal charge.


Rent a bike and explore the trails around one of the many resorts. Every Walt Disney World Resort hotel has some kind of trail, but the trails around Wilderness Lodge and Ft. Wilderness are especially nice. Bikes can be rented for around $10 per hour at most of the Deluxe and DVC resorts, as well as at Fort Wilderness whether you are a guest at the individual resort or not.  It's a great way to pass some time on a non-theme park day.  

Friday, July 27, 2012

Walt Disney World Firsts


It Was a Week Full of “Firsts” – and Oh-So TRIPPY…

We just got home a couple of days ago from another terrific and memorable trip to Walt Disney World.  Was I sad to leave?  Always.  But as I tell me kids time and time again, all good things come to end.  And so yes, this trip ended as well, and we had to come home once again.  Was it nice to sleep in my own bed again?  You bet.  I always love sleeping in my own bed again after being gone.  There’s just something about sleeping in your own bed, you know?

Despite all of the dozens of times that I have been to Walt Disney World (and yes, it’s close to five dozen times), this trip was full of quite a few “firsts” for us – both collectively as a family, and for me personally as an individual. 
  • Driving my own car at Walt Disney World was – in a word – trippy.   I have driven rental cars all over the place multiple times there, but never before had I driven my own Jeep there.  Growing up in Southern California, driving to Disneyland was no big deal… but driving to Florida?!?  Something we had never, ever done before.  You have to understand that long car rides… just not something we’ve done much of since the kids were very little.  It’s true our kids have visited 26 states, but most of those trips were taken when they were a lot younger.  Thinking about it, they’ve been on planes nearly as many times as I’ve been to Walt Disney World.
  • My oldest son was part of the driving crew!  Yikes.  He drove about 6 hours on the way down to Florida, and about 6 hours on the way home.  Again, in a word… trippy.
  • We spent a lot of time in the pools… I mean a LOT of time.  We were there just about every single day.  This is so not like us.  While we enjoy the occasional dip, we are just not pool people.  And spending hours at the pool – at Walt Disney World – has just never been something we’ve done.  Sure a dip here, maybe there, once or twice during a visit – but never every single day – until now.  Very trippy.
  • We enjoyed a pool-side movie.  Fancy that.  I’ve talked about them here in my blog previously, and told many people about them – but we’ve never experienced one for ourselves.  We watched “Finding Nemo” while enjoying the pool at Kidani Village.  Huh.  Trippy. 
  • Not going into the theme parks, of course, meant no theme park meals.  We planned to avoid the theme parks all along – but we also ended up not planning any table service meals at all.  So NO ADR’s for this trip.  That was different.  Kinda trippy.    We did end up going to BOMA, thanks to a mix-up on the resort’s part and the subsequent “we messed up” gift card, but we didn’t plan that in advance.  I did arrange a reservation for us 2 days in advance – but again – trippy, since the typical long-term “ADVANCED” in ADR was absent.  Most people don’t make ADR’s 2 days in advance. 
  • We did not buy souvenirs on this trip.  No pins.  Nothing.  We’ve been so often, there really was no need to bring more of the same old crap home.  While I was pleased to see some new resort-specific merchandise in the shops, there really was nothing that made me say “I’ve GOT to have that.”  So the wallet stayed in the pocket, and came home no worse for the wear.   Trippy.  I almost always come home with something.
  • We enjoyed many of the same “free” or “nearly free” things that I have been talking about in my semi-regular “Saturday Savers” posts.  

We took our daughter over to the Tri-Circle D Ranch at Ft. Wilderness to check out the horses. Sadly she was 3 inches too tall to be able to ride the ponies, despite being within the age and weight range.  Sigh.  The tears only lasted a few moments, and then she was happy to at least be able to pet them.  

In the Cars section of Art of Animation


The new DVC resort under construction
 I took the family over to explore new resorts that they had not yet seen - such as the all-new Art of Animation Resort and the Yacht and Beach Clubs - and from a distance we saw the progress being made on the new DVC resort, the Villas at the Grand Floridian, currently under construction.  Kinda trippy doing things with them, that I’ve done numerous times before on my various solo research trips.

  • We did NOT sit and watch Stacy!  
  • We did watch "I Love Lucy" - in fact numerous times, as it was requested by my daughter numerous times as we scrolled through the on-screen listings menu.  Anytime she saw it, she would shout out for Lucy! (I love that girl... she loves Lucy almost as much as her daddy does.)  Sitting and watching television while at Walt Disney World has never happened before... except to sit and watch Stacy. 

  • We enjoyed the Kitchen Sink at Beaches & Cream at Disney's Beach Club.  Finished it, too (well, we did leave some melted ice cream mixed with about 7 or 8 cherries in the bottom that my son kept calling primordial soup… but otherwise, we finished that monstrosity!)   If you’ve never experienced it for yourself, or if you’ve never even heard of the Kitchen Sink… let me elaborate just a bit for you.  It’s 8 scoops of ice cream, topped with EVERY kind of topping they have, plus a whole can – yes, I said it – a WHOLE CAN of whipped cream.  It’s ghastly – yet fun – in a trippy sort of way.  The toppings alone amazed me.  The menu made it seem like just the standard liquid topping variety – but OH NO – there were cake bits, brownie pieces, pieces of candy bars, bananas, pineapple, candied fruit, nuts, and probably an entire jar of cherries, since each of my three kids had at least 6 to 7 cherries apiece (plus those 7 or 8 left in the bottom of the dish).  Crazy.  Fun.  DEFINITELY memorable.  But not something that we need to do again. 


  • We enjoyed spending some time (albeit just an hour or so) with friends from another state, who checked in while were at the World!  In the same resort that we had just checked out that morning no less! (Long story short but due to a relatively last-minute change of plans, we had to change resorts for the last couple of nights of our trip - but it was a blessing in disguise because the original plans would have had us leaving WDW 2 days prior to Mark & Julie's arrival... this way we got to visit with them after all!).  Prior to checking out we were joking that they might even end up with "OUR" room at Kidani Village (sadly, no dice, they ended up on the OTHER end of the savannah). Encounters like that do seem to make the famous (and often famously maligned Sherman Brothers song from that iconic Fantasyland attraction ring true - it IS a small world after all!).  

  • We got to watch Wishes from the Top of the World Lounge at Bay Lake Tower! Not being BLT point owners, and not having stayed at that resort - we have not had the usually exclusive pleasure of experienced this perk previously.  But since it was made available for a "limited time" to any DVC owner staying on points at any DVC resort, we decided to head on over and see if we could get in and watch from there.  Knowing the Top of the World has limited space, we weren't sure if we would get in or not, but tried anyway.  We were told guests could arrive as early as 6pm, but Wishes wasn't until 10pm.  No way were we going to sit over there for that long.  We arrived at 9pm, and figured if we couldn't get in, we'd simply ride the Monorail over to the Polynesian and watch from the beach (something else we've never done).  But we got in with no problem.  All told, when the fireworks began - the Lounge was probably little more than half full - so there was no need to stress about it at all.  Other nights it might have been more crowded - but our night - not at all.  A big bonus right there!  As a show, Wishes, to me, is very stale and needs to be replaced (especially after watching two different far-superior fireworks presentations at Disneyland in the years since Wishes was first rolled out, and were created after Wishes by the same dude who created Wishes in the first place... it's time Steve Davison to put your fireworks focus back on Walt Disney World!) - but I digress, enough to say that it was fun to experience it from a new vantage point - especially to see how truly far behind the Magic Kingdom the shells are actually shot up from.  The show does lose a LOT in the translation when not watching it from within the confines of the Magic Kingdom - BUT it was fresh and new watching it from the 16th floor of Bay Lake Tower.  Despite being stale to me, it was a great final night bit of fun for all of us. 

  • We went in JULY.  For any of you following along who have ever read any comments I have made on the DIS, or any other online spot I may have commented… we do NOT like the heat and humidity of Florida in the Summer time.  I have avoided it like the plague – until this year.  When we realized that this 10 day period of the summer was pretty much the ONLY time during the entire summer that all five of us would be “home” at the same time – and not off on some Scout, Church or other outing.  So way back in February we decided that the only way to protect that time – and give us the much-desired family time that we needed – was to effectively get “out of dodge” and enjoy our timeshare.  That way none of us would be tempted to respond to the various text messages, phone calls, Facebook posts or Tweets that would come around saying – “COME…. Do this, that or whatever else....”  By being 900 miles away from all of that – we could have that coveted family time.  It was a wise choice.  We enjoyed spending time together, reconnecting, being silly, playing games and just hangin’ out together.  Very, very trippy.  I highly recommend taking your own family doing something similar – especially when the busy-ness of the teen years creep in and overtake your household!  With one super active teen, one getting more and more active all-the-time teen, one slightly busy pre-teen and two busy parents – we must SCHEDULE this kind of time in order to capture it – at all.  Otherwise this friend, that friend, this activity or that activity WILL overtake one or more family member each and every week. 

It’s crazy – but it will all change in just two short years when our eldest leaves for college – followed a couple of years later by our middle son, and then it will all come crashing down in just a few short years when the last of the kids is off on her way to college.  It’s very trippy how all those years ago when the boys were but wee ones people would exhort us to “enjoy this time while it lasts” – we were so full of ourselves thinking it would last longer than it actually does.  And here we are – with a son driving us to Walt Disney World, getting ready to start his Junior year of high school and the college information keeps coming in the mail each and every week.   Trippy is definitely an understatement for the week that we experienced – but even more appropriate for the short 16 years that have literally flown by.  Now to start figuring out which week will be the “one week” next summer so that we can hopefully do it all again…

Until next time,



Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sunday Spotlight - Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort


Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort® first opened at Walt Disney World® Resort on August 4, 2009, as a Disney Vacation Club® (DVC) addition to the original resort.  The tower's design both complements and pays homage to the 1971 original just next door, featuring a modernistic design.

Like other DVC resorts located at or next to their Disney Deluxe level counterpart, the resort shares amenities with Disney's Contemporary Resort®.  
Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort® features 295 villas, comprised of Deluxe Studios, 1-Bedroom, 2-Bedroom and 3-Bedroom Grand Villas.

  • Deluxe Studios are 356 square feet and can accommodate up to 4 guests, plus 1 child under age 3 in a crib.  They include a kitchenette, 2 queen-size beds and a private porch or balcony.
  • 1-Bedrooms are 727 square feet, and can accommodate up to 5 guests, plus 1 child under age 3 in a crib. They include a fully equipped kitchen, washer & dryer, king-size bed in the master bedroom, a queen-size sleeper sofa plus a sleeper chair in the living room, whirlpool tub in the master bathroom, a 2nd full bathroom, and a private porch or balcony.
  • 2-Bedrooms are 1,080 square feet, and can accommodate up to 9 guests, plus 1 child under 3 in a crib. They offer all that a 1-Bedroom has plus a 2nd bedroom with 2 queen-size beds and a 3rd full bathroom.
  • 3-Bedroom Grand Villas are 2,044 square feet, and can accommodate up to 12 guests, plus 1 child under 3 in a crib. They offer all of the amenities of the 2-Bedroom, plus they include a 3rd  bedroom with 2 queen-size beds, a 4th full bathroom, a full dining room, additional private balcony and are 2-story rooms.

As a DVC timeshare property, the villas are owned by members through DVC’s points-based system.  DVC maintains about 3-4% ownership of the total point allocation for each of their timeshare resorts, therefore rooms are available for rent year-round to non-members. 

The resort includes 1 feature pool  with waterslide and 1 quiet pool;  a children’s pool and water play area; poolside cabana rentals; white sand beach for sunbathing;  marina for watercraft rentals; fitness center;  an arcade and other assorted recreational activities including Disney movies in the evenings.

The resort features 3 table service restaurants:  California Grill, The Wave and Chef Mickey’s – and Chef Mickey’s features both a breakfast and dinner Character Dining experience daily. It also features 1 quick-service restaurant: Contempo Cafe; as well as 3 lounge/bar locations: Contempo Grounds, Outer Rim and The Sand Bar

Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort® is located between the shores of the man-made Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake, across the water from Magic Kingdom® Park, just a short monorail or boat ride away. The Transportation & Ticket Center is located just next door to the resort, where guests can easily transfer to the Epcot® monorail line as well.  Convenient bus transportation will take guests to all other parts of Walt Disney World® Resort. 


For more information and to reserve your next vacation, contact me at 855.776.1733 or via my websites:  www.neverlandadventurestravel.com or www.neverlandadventurescruises.com.  Be sure to follow me on Twitter, like my page on Facebook, and circle me on Google+.


Monday, July 16, 2012

stopher's stuff

Vacation.  


Such a beautiful word it is.  No matter if means a cabin in the woods, a timeshare on the beach or a ship setting sail for the majestic splendors of the Inside Passage - rest and relaxation should be what drives you to take a vacation.


I have fond memories of vacations past when I was a child in Mammoth Lakes, California.  The eastern Sierra Nevada mountains are just so beautiful, so tranquil, and so majestic.  They have somewhat of an alpine feel to them, and are just so special in my heart.  That little slice of heaven - God's country as we called it - will always represent rest and relaxation to me.  


We would go every summer to the same places.  Some years when I was really small we would camp in a tent trailer or a tent, until my parents began to rent a little cabin in the woods from one of the three lodges in the area that provided housekeeping cabins.  My grandparents would come along as well, and we had such a good time together.  Fishing, hiking, horseback-riding, bike riding and so much more were all part of our regular routine on those jaunts into the woods.   Some summers we would go just once, others we would go twice - closer to both Memorial Day and again at Labor Day.  


Over time we switched from one lodge to another, and had our favorite cabin in each  lodge that we would always try to secure when making the next reservation.  My grandmother and mother would eagerly put aside money each week into the vacation fund, so that we could all have a great time together once more.  We didn't mind that there was no tv reception (except in the Olympic years, such as this year). We didn't mind that the town itself was small, and there were no large grocery stores, or movie houses.  We enjoyed being together as a family.  


As I grew older still, and became a teenager, my parents decided to purchase a townhouse there in town.  (Eventually they even sold the home I grew up in and relocated to that beautiful little town).  It was wonderful to be able to get away to our favorite destination even more often throughout the year, having our own vacation home right there.  Suddenly we were able to be there in all seasons.  I even took a group of friends for an extended weekend getaway to Mammoth during my Senior year of high school.  That was awesome!


But that whole being together thing - that's really what a vacation is all about, isn't it?  It's not so much the destination (sure that is a NICE part of it all), but really, a vacation is about spending time together with those you love.  And getting some rest, and relaxation while you're at it.  


As an adult, my lovely bride and I have had a variety of experiences with our children - including one time taking our kids to Mammoth Lakes, where my eldest caught his first fish.  Sometimes we've gone with their grandparents, other times not.  Many times we were invited along on trips with our parents, other times we asked them to come along.  But for us - since we relocated out of California and to the Midwest, not once, but twice - the majority of our "vacations" have been treks back home to visit family in California and the west.  We haven't always gone to the same place each summer, but we have enjoyed going places together with our kids.  Making memories, and spending time together.  It wasn't until we made the decision to join Disney Vacation Club (DVC), that we knew we would have a place to return to time and time again much as my parents did with that little cabin in the woods.  Going to Walt Disney World often is something we've enjoyed, so owning a little piece of the magic just made sense to us.   


And now that's exactly what we're doing once more - going somewhere together with our kids, making memories and spending time together.  This week we're spending time at one of our favorite destinations, Walt Disney World.  But we aren't going in to the theme parks.  We're simply enjoying a couple of our DVC home resorts.  We're at Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas for several nights, and then we'll move over to Disney's Saratoga Springs for some nights.  It's been a very busy year for us (we have teenagers!), and we really needed to capture this time together with them before life changes in a dramatic way in just two more years.  Yep, the oldest will be off to college soon, and we will never again have quite the same experiences together as we do now.  He'll have a life of his own, and mom and dad might not fit back in to his schedule for a few years or more.  And of course number two will follow suit about three years after the eldest does, and then we'll be down to a family of three at home.  Events that were SOOOOO far off in the future when the boys were toddlers are now very close to reality.  


So we stop the crazy busy-ness at home for a brief period and get away from it all.  We knew early this year that the summer of 2012 would be full and busy and crazy.  We saw that of the entire summer, there was really only one week-and-a-half period where we would ALL five of us be in the same house at the same time with no distractions, visitors or "things to do."  And we also knew that if we did not take the time as a family to get away from all of the myriad of possible temptations that might take one family member away (friends, activities, movies, etc, etc, etc) - so we knew the only way to stifle those temptations was by getting away from the temptations themselves.  By pausing and transplanting our family for the week-and-a-half we could actually slow down, pause and enjoy our time together.  


It'll be a week of nothing much.  Sleeping in.  Eating in and a little eating out.  Cards.  Video games.  Pool time.  Talking.  Board games.  A little exploration.  Laughing.  Perhaps the beach.  And other general silliness.  Time to pause and reflect on where we've been as a family, and yes, where we're headed.  Just spending time TOGETHER.  


It might not be in the still quiet of the mountains with babbling brooks nearby... but it will still be very nice, and very enjoyable.  And very much needed.  Memories are at stake you know.  Someday my kids will be the ones remembering back on their mom and dad making sure that we had this time together.  


Until next time,





Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sunday Spotlight - Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa


Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa® first opened at the Disneyland® Resort on February 8, 2001 along with Disney’s newest domestic theme park, Disney California Adventure Park.  The resort shares a boundary with the theme park, and can actually be considered to be “inside” the theme park It is the only hotel at the Disneyland® Resort with a wing featuring Disney Vacation Club® villas, opened in September 2009; as well as the only hotel at the resort designed and built by the Walt Disney Company. 

This AAA Four Diamond hotel was designed by famed architect Peter Dominick (the same architect who designed Disney’s Wilderness Lodge® and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge® at Walt Disney World®), and was designed in the Craftsman styling of the Arts and Crafts movement in California during the early 20th century.  The design incorporates wide sweeping roofs, projecting beams, exaggerated braces and an earth tone color palette.  The hotel’s sweeping six story lobby is an architectural masterpiece, which features a massive fireplace reminiscent of the oversized fireplaces of the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park, located in Northern California.     

Like other grand hotels within the Disney resort family, guests are both awed and impressed upon first entry into the hotel.  A sweeping porte cachere staffed with courteous bellmen greets each arriving vehicle.  The entry door is a grand wooden frame surrounding hand-cut stained glass with images representing the state of California. 

The hotel features 750 traditional guest rooms, and is the only hotel at the Disneyland® Resort with a wing featuring 50 Disney Vacation Club® villas, added to the hotel in September 2009; as well as the only hotel at the resort designed and built by the Walt Disney Company.  Many of the rooms and villas have views looking directly into Disney California Adventure® Park, or overlooking the Downtown Disney District.  A highlight of the hotel is the private entrance in to Disney California Adventure® Park, available only to guests of the three resort hotels of the Disneyland® Resort.

The hotel features 2 table service restaurants:  Storyteller’s Café and Napa Rose; and includes one quick-service restaurant: White Water Snacks; as well as 2 lounge/bar locations:  Hearthstone Lounge near the lobby, and Napa Rose Lounge adjacent to the Napa Rose restaurant.  The Mandara Spa is a full service, 4,000 square foot fully equipped workout facility and spa with massage service and saunas.  Pinocchio’s Workshop is a staffed children’s activity center.  The hotel features 3 pools and 2 hot tubs, as well as a 20,000 square foot Convention Center.

For more information and to reserve your next vacation, contact me at 855.776.1733 or via my websites:  www.neverlandadventurestravel.com or www.neverlandadventurescruises.com.  Be sure to follow me on Twitter, like my page on Facebook, and circle me on Google+.